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Come on a tour, it may lead you somewhere you never expected to go

After coming on a World War 1 Battlefields tour with us, Diane Grundon decided to buy her first Harley-Davidson. This is her story….

REPRODUCED WITH THE KIND PERMISSION OF HOG MAGAZINE.

Last year LOH member and long-time motorcycle rider Diane Grunion reached a crossroads. After persevering with a number of different makes and models of motorcycle, Diane was pondering whether to continue riding or ‘hang up her handlebars’ and be a pillion to her husband, Shaun. In a fortunate twist of fate, the couple chose a cross-Europe ride with Harley-Davidson Authorized Tours operator, Tour1.

“l’ve been riding since the early 1980s, commuting to and from central London every day on the only bike I’ve ever been able to touch the ground on — a rather sporty, unrestricted red RD125,” says Diane. “During one of these commutes I had an ‘altercation’ with a lorry that turned without indicating. I braked hard but had no way out, so laid the bike under the trailer and was dragged to a stop under its back wheels. I was really lucky; I had very good gear and walked away with bruised pulled ligaments in my knee. However it knocked my confidence big time and I went back to being a pillion.”

Diane, however is made of sterner stuff and her determination soon led her back to the saddle. “I missed the life and camaraderie,” she says. Shaun was keen on me getting a new bike but my family were always dead against it. My mind was made up after my father died of cancer ~ he’d said there were things he always wanted to do in life but he had kept putting them off. That wasn’t going to be me;  I wanted to achieve everything I wanted to in life and have no regrets.”

It was at this point that Diane — a self-confessed ‘5ft 1″ shorty’ — tried a number of bikes in her search for the right one or, as she says: “My disastrous phase of purchasing bikes that didn’t fit me started.” These included a 650 Bandit, a BMW G650GS which, according to Diane,  “could be lowered and was light, but was also unreliable” and eventually “swapped for a Moto Guzzi V7, which  I loved but never really gelled with — it was too big and didn’t feel comfortable.”

After struggling with the V7 for some years, Diane finally reached her crossroads. “The European tour would decide whether I kept the bike, or sold it and stayed pillion,” she says. “We’d toured the UK and loved it, but wanted to tour Europe and decided that for our first ride we would go with a group, so we could learn the ropes.

“We then discovered Tourl, which predominantly offers Harley-Davidson tours but considers other bikes. We were a little apprehensive about travelling with Harley riders, but went with it.”

And so began Diane’s journey of discovery. “Two things became apparent immediately,” she says. “Firstly, all my preconceived ideas about Harley riders vanished. They were such a lovely bunch of guys and girls who were willing to help,  full of advice and we had some great banter.  We couldn’t have asked for a better group of touring companions.

“Secondly, the tour was phenomenal.  It was a great mix of riding, history and people. The places we visited were thought-provoking and the roads were perfect. I wasn’t totally confident, but Elaine – riding back marker — made me feel protected and calm. The highlight was laying a wreath at the Thiepval Memorial; it was very moving and I  wasn’t the only one with a tear in my eye.”

It was after the tour that Diane reached her decision. “The V7 just wasn’t working; it was too tall. While on tour, others in the group suggested that I try a Harley – they thought that being low and well-balanced would be perfect for me. On returning I visited a Harley-Davidson dealership. The staff there couldn’t have been more helpful. For the first time I was treated as a person rather than just a buyer.

“I’d originally intended to look at the Iron 883′”, but didn’t like the seating position,” she continues. “Then, tucked away in the corner, I spotted the Street” 750. It was low, light and it was love at first sight. I’m now the proud owner of a Fire Red Street 750.”

For Diane, becoming the proud owner of a Harley-Davidson has invigorated her love of riding. ‘‘I couldn’t be happier,” she says. “I can’t compare my riding now to before. I’m still riding and it’s November — on any other bike I’d have found an excuse to stop riding by now!

“I realise now that Harley-Davidson and H.O.G.“ means family. I’ve been treated as a friend by everyone I’ve met. I’ve joined Ladies of Harley and can’t wait to meet like—minded women. It doesn’t matter if I’m a lady motorcyclist and if I only ride a ‘baby’ Harley – I’m just a Harley rider.”

And, isn’t that the point? Whether riding individually, with friends or as part of a chapter, H.O.G. is one unified family. “Our next trip is already in the planning stage,” says Diane. “It’s going to be another WWI tour that lasts two weeks. The way Shaun has been eyeing up a Road King Classic recently, there’s a good chance it could be on two Harleys rather than one!”

Article first appeared in issue 4 2016 of HOG magazine for the UK & Ireland.  © Archant Dialogue 2016

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